When Elissa Shepard’s husband Justin purchased Shep’s Riverside Bar & Grill eight years ago, she had no way of knowing how that would lead her on the journey she enjoys today as owner of Driftless Gypsy Boutique in Lansing.
“When we bought the bar, we noticed a lot of people wanted t-shirts and can koozies and merchandise, which was very cool. At first, we ordered items from other companies, but found it was very expensive. At one point, I just decided to learn how to screen print, so I took a course and bought the equipment. I started screen printing in the basement of the bar for our own use, then expanded into printing for friends and family events,” recalled Elissa.
From there, Elissa, who has always been interested in fashion and design, had an idea for a mobile boutique for her screen printed designs. She had her mom beside her as they purchased an old RV, completely refurbished it into the mobile boutique, and took the hot pink and navy blue “Driftless Gypsy Boutique” around the Driftless area for pop-up shops and events.
Soon, Elissa began branching out, offering pairings to her screen printed materials, including flannel shirts, jewelry, shoes and accessories. As her business began to grow and flourish on the road, she cut back on screen printing due to the time it took and focused on curating collections for the drivable fashion store with an edgy, fresh, boho vibe that she manned with her mom, Patti Wild.
She took a break, however, when her shopmate and mom was diagnosed with cancer. “It was just too much,” Elissa added. Patti passed away in the fall of 2019, and Elissa lost her beloved companion and role model.
During this break, she was working as a paraeducator with the Special Education students in Eastern Allamakee County School. “An opportunity came up for a retail space in Lansing, and I’ve learned that if you want to do it, you better do it.” Elissa moved on the location, and the Driftless Gypsy Boutique found its roots in its first retail location.
“Being as size inclusive as possible is a big focus for the store, and I believe we can provide great options for every size, shape or body type. I think that sets us apart. There’s a lot of people in the Driftless area with all different sizes and shapes. I try hard to get sizes up to 3x in many of our fashion lines,” Elissa stated. She also added that finding quality lines at an affordable price is important.
Elissa recently celebrated the four-year anniversary of her retail location. Never satisfied with status quo, Elissa celebrated that milestone in a building she purchased herself with a larger retail space, allowing her to branch out into home goods as well as clothing, shoes, jewelry and accessories.
Always moving forward, she is finalizing renovations to the apartment above her store and is planning to renovate the new store’s façade this spring as well, thanks to a grant from Allamakee County Economic Development for façade restoration.
The Driftless Gypsy is open at 221 Main Street in Lansing, Thursday through Sunday at 10 a.m. Elissa also maintains an online presence at driftlessgypsyboutique.myshopify.com and has vibrant Facebook and Instagram accounts to showcase her wares.